Unknown and known facts about Cannes Film Festival

Sakshi Sharma
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facts about Cannes Film Festival

Before Cannes Film Festival is done with, here are some facts about Cannes Film Festival that might bowl you over!

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious film festivals, which has crossed the mark of 75+ years this year since its conception in 1946. It's that time of the year when cine buffs around the world are busy celebrating the art of cinema in the most glamourised form. With film screenings all day long under different categories, the festival becomes a place where cinema gets to take centre stage and shine. Because the films that are screened here sometimes go on to become the most important films throughout the year. But other than the big leagues and red carpet fashion, it's a festival where unknown indie, short films, documentaries, and many more from various parts of the world get a chance to be looked at and recognised. For instance, last year's All That Breathes, a documentary by Shaunak Sen was bought by HBO, and Dhuin, a film by Achal Mishra was bought by MUBI to stream worldwide. For the people who devour the festival and only get to watch the films later on, here are some known and unknown facts about Cannes Film Festival!


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How and why was it born and the politics behind it all

You might have known that Cannes was earlier known as the International Film Festival! But did you know that it started way back in 1939 in opposition and in response to Venice Film Festival which had become a biased film festival and was simply a way to push propaganda films in Nazi Germany? Though unfortunately, it couldn't officially start until WWII was over in 1946. Earlier it was on invite-only to encourage filmmakers to come and take part in it and everyone who came got an award or so to take back with them. Eleven Films received the Grand Prix in 1946. But it wasn't until the 1950s that the festival gained quite a prominence with many International stars showing up. The idea of the Cannes Festival belongs to the French Association of Artistic Action Director (AFAA), Philippe Erlanger, and the film critics, Emile Vuillermoz and Rene Jeanne. In 1959, the Cannes Film Market was made official. Until then, the networking between film professionals was held in secret on the sidelines of the festival.


The mystery of the Palm d'Or trophy

The trophy that is considered to be the highest honour to be earned by any filmmaker, Palm d'Or (Golden Palm) was created in 1955 before it was called Grand Prix. The organisers of the festival invited various jewellers to compete in the design for it out of which the Parisian jeweller, Lucienne Lazon won. Though over the years the design of the trophy has somewhat changed since 1997, the Swiss company Chopard has been in charge of manufacturing the award. And each year, two Palm d'Or are made just in case there are two winners or an accident happens as they are bound to happen. The award is made of 18-carat gold and apparently the Golden Palm branch is about 20.000 euros. The only ever three-way Palm d'Or was awarded in 2013 to the film Blue is the Warmest Colour as the judges thought that given a slight change of cast, the film would not have worked as well.


Also Read: Triangle of Sadness review: Last year’s Cannes Palm d’Or winner will leave you deep in thought! 

Media coverage, and the grandness of the festival

After more than 75 years of the festival, it is said that more than 4500 journalists cover the festival, making it the second-largest event to be covered by the media so extensively after the Olympics. Also on average 200,000 actors, filmmakers, agents, producers, distributors, and more travel to the south of France every year to the event. The 24 steps up to the Palais des Festivals are covered by 60 meters of carpet which is supposedly changed three times a day so that it looks fresh under famous feet as the steps are climbed and photos are taken. The carpet is also been fully recyclable since 2016 as a result of media pressure for the Festival to address its environmental impact. And the security at the event is famously tight so no one can enter without proper passes.


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The various and famously curious incidents that happened during the festival

Given that this event that has been going on for years, there might have been many changes and incidents over the years that made the news. In 1968, a group of directors Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle, and François Truffaut among others brought the festival to a standstill by refusing to let the curtain go and subsequently stopping the screenings in solidarity with the student protests being held all over France. Just like this time, it's known that Martin Scorsese is showing up just as a director and will not be involving himself in any panel discussions or conferences because he is supporting the writer's protest currently going on in America. In 1971, couples who could prove that they were newly married were invited to the screening of the closing film - The Married Couple of the Year Two, a romantic comedy. Infact, a special box was reserved for them for the screening on the day.

The famous photographer's strike of 1975 and 1983 - Paul Newman in 1975 and Isabelle Adjani in 1983 avoided and refused to be clicked when they arrived for the festival. So in protest, when they were both climbing up the steps, photographers kept their cameras at their own feet and refuse to click photos. Booing, clapping and standing ovations are common at the festival but in 2002, Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible proved so shocking that it prompted one of the biggest walkouts in the festival's history. 250 people left the screening, and fire wardens administered oxygen to the 20 people who fainted.

In 2009, Lars Von Trier’s controversial Antichrist was given an unofficial anti-prize for being the 'most-sexist' movie of all time, by a group of jury members, Ecumenical Jury that exist since 1973 to give out these awards to films with 'special merit'. In 2013, there was a wave of jewel heists in hotels where many of the rich and famous stayed while attending the Cannes. Inspired by 1955’s To Catch A Thief, 103 million euros worth of jewels were stolen from an exhibition at the Carlton Hotel entitled Extraordinary Diamonds and the thief was never caught. Apparently, in 2015, a number of women were denied access because they wore flat footwear which sparked a number of high-protest scandals as actresses like Julia Roberts and Kristen Stewart walked the red carpet barefoot chucking their stilettos aside. Apart from these, there are a lot of protests this red carpet has seen over the years which made the organisers decide that they will be no longer entertained this year.


India at Cannes over the years

Last year, India was the 'country of honour' in the Cannes Market of Cinema as a tribute to the country’s 75 years of diplomatic relations with France. Much before this, in 1946, Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar shared the top award, Grand Prix du Festival International du Film, with David Lean’s Brief Encounters. In 1954, Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin won it. Mrinal Sen was the first ever Indian to sit on the jury in 1982, after which Vidya Balan, Nandita Das, Sharmila Tagore, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Shekhar Kapur, and Arundhati Roy have also served as jury members. Devdas officially premiered at the 2002 Cannes, after which The Lunchbox, Bombay Talkies, Monsoon Shootout, Massan, Gangs of Wasseypur, All That Breathes and many more have been screened at the Cannes. The Lunchbox and Massan even won the Critics Week Viewers Choice awards and the Promising Future and International Jury of Film Critics prize respectively.


Also Read: 4 Indian movies to be screened at Cannes Film Festival 2023

Random other facts

6 new languages were added to the Cannes website last year to stress the festival’s international character. The festival's director is Thierry Fremaux and the event director is Pierre Lescure. About 20 films premiere “In Competition” each year, where they compete for the top Cannes prize- the Palme d’Or (“golden palm”). It's the most prestigious and recognised film festival because of its exclusivity and really long history of premiering the world's greatest films which are selected and judged by juries made of well-known filmmakers, actors, and composers from around the world. It also maintains the world’s busiest movie market, the Marché du Film where movie distributors who specialise in finding ways to get audiences for foreign and other niche films strike the most important deals of the year at the festival. Filmmakers in need of funding and distribution spend their days at the market.


Which facts were the ones that you already knew and which ones blew your mind? Let us know in the comments below!

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